Food sales at Marks and Spencer increased by 5% for the 14 weeks to July 9, reversing a downward trend for the retailer.

In a trading statement issued to the City this morning ahead of its annual general meeting this afternoon, M&S said that like-for-like food sales for the period were also up 0.7%.

M&S said that the increase was due to improved product innovation, service and availability.

It also said that there had been a positive reaction to its recent food advertising campaign.

However, M&S also revealed that UK retail sales were down 3.1% for the period, with general merchandise down 10.3%, clothing slipping 9.2% and home falling 22.3%.

General merchandise like-for-like sales also fell 11.2% compared with 9.2% the year before.

M&S chief executive, Stuart Rose, said: “While the trading environment remains very challenging, better buying, stock and cost control should enable us to make further progress.”